TBF. Remembering Stephen Strasburg in Torrington with the Twisters. From 2010.
TORRINGTON -- As I looked back through a large scrapbook former Torrington Twisters president Chris Cook gave me after I covered the team during the 2007 season, memories of seeing a player who is about to hit the big time flooded back.
Former Twister righthander Stephen Strasburg will make his major league debut tonight for the Washington National as they host the Pittsburgh Pirates in perhaps the most anticipated start of a young player in history.
Strasburg came from San Diego State as a freshman to play summer ball in the New England Collegiate Baseball League. He had tremendous stuff and it became an event each time he took to the mound. Unfortunately, his time here was relatively short.
He got the win on opening night, June 7, 2007 when he pitched a scoreless top of the ninth against the Manchester Silkworms.
The Twisters won the game in the bottom of the ninth on a single by Garett Green which plated Eric Deragisch with the winning run.
It would the only game Strasburg would win while he was here, but it was the beginning of the event that took place every time he took the mound.
The team that year won the Southern Division regular season title with a 24-16 record but lost in the second round of the playoffs to Newport.
Strasburg ended up with eight saves in 13 games, posting a sparkling 1.29 ERA. and threw more wild pitches (3) than he allowed walks (1).
That made sense to me though, during the first few games, as his catchers had real trouble figuring out what his ball was going to do.
It was a preview of what hundreds of hitters would experience over the next three years.
Talking to Strasburg after a game he finished was easy, if you could get past the wall of kids looking to get his autograph.
One thing about Strasburg that stands to this day is that if you listen to his interviews, he really does love to talk about his craft.
During the 2007 season, at the ripe old age of 18, Strasburg was already helping fellow pitchers like Kyle Hoffman, who was his house mate in Avon along with Green.
After one particularly tough outing in which Hoffman was walking the ballpark and getting frustrated with himself, it was Strasburg who counseled him in the dugout after he was removed from the game.
Most pitchers might be found relaxing in the bullpen if they were not scheduled to throw that night, but not Strasburg who believed in working on baseball every time he was at the park.
"Stephen's work ethic is what got him to the big leagues so soon," former Twisters manager Gregg Hunt said, "He is a great example of what kid's need to do to get better. He is an exceptional talent."
Less than three weeks into his stay here in Torrington, the big stage came to him and Strasburg was more than up to the task.
Team USA, who played in Torrington for a number of years during the Twisters 12-year run, was coming to town on June 23 and the team was going to have their closer start instead of close to showcase his talent.
Boy, did he not disappoint.
Strasburg struck out seven of the nine batters he faced in his three-inning stint in which he did not allow a hit.
He would go with Team USA for a week later that summer and pitch in a five-game series in North Carolina against a team from Chinese Taipei.
He would excel in that outing also and again on the USA Olympic Team in 2008 where he was the youngest player to make the team.
Every step since then has been well documented by every sports program, newspaper and web site, but we had something here in Torrington nobody else can claim.
We had a summer in which he was all ours.
The thing that always struck me about Stephen was what a good kid he was. His ability to deal with the spotlight comes from a well-grounded family life back in San Diego and continues now even as he gets ready to step onto the biggest stage in front of millions.
A long way from a hot summer nights in July in Torrington, Connecticut for sure, but we who saw him can feel a certain sense of pride that we knew him back in 2007.